There are podcasts about true crime and stories of how those podcasts have helped to solve them. But for one Ohio woman, it was her love of a podcast that took it a step further and helped prevent — or at least hinder — one crime.
In a graphic post on Facebook, Hannah Sydney Thees explains that on June 22, while taking her dog for a walk in Cincinnati, she was tackled by a stranger who tried to sexually assault her. At nine months pregnant, Thees used all the strength she had to resist, punching her assailant’s face and poking his eyes. Part of what prompted her strength, she says, was the two “hilarious and brilliant” female hosts of a true crime comedy podcast she’s devoted to called My Favorite Murder.
“I feel like I’ve learned so much from listening to this weekly podcast, and I think that it may have helped to prepare me for a situation like this. And I’m not going to lie, as I was being attacked, I could faintly hear their voices in the back of my mind pushing me through,” Thees says in the post, which shows her in a hospital afterward with two black eyes. (Thees did not respond to an interview request from Yahoo Lifestyle.) “So I want to end this little, errr long blurb, with their sign off, STAY SEXY, and DON’T GET MURDERED.”
To a nonlistener of My Favorite Murder, the sign-off may seem random, but to the show’s cultlike following — known as “muderinos” — it’s profound, encouraging women not only to embrace their freedom to be sexy but to reclaim their power (in this case, so they don’t get murdered). The idea shatters the classic narrative surrounding women and crime, which often depicts them as vulnerable and powerless. The show flips that notion upside down, suggesting women can — and should — fight back.
Still, if an empowering call to action is what My Favorite Murder has become, it’s not what its hosts — Karen Kilgariff, a standup comedian and television writer, and Georgia Hardstark, a writer and host for the Cooking Channel — intended. The two (who declined to comment for this Yahoo Lifestyle story) started the podcast in 2016 after bonding at a party over the story of a murder that intrigued them both. Their podcast began as an extension of that — a way for them to share their latest obsession.
But after years of listening to stories of grisly murders, female fans began to notice a trend — namely, that many of the murders resulted from women clinging to prescribed roles as polite people pleasers. From that realization came another popular rallying cry: “F*** politeness.” There are at least a dozen others circulating both on the internet and in the artistic world, where muderinos paint them on canvases or tattoo them on their skin. “Stay out of the forest” is a favorite. “Look, listen” goes another.
Now on its 126th episode, the show has become a bona fide part of the feminist movement, selling out live shows worldwide. On its Facebook page, which boasts more than 200,000 fans, listeners share tips for upcoming true crime festivals or “hometown stories” about things they’ve experienced or seen. These stories, which are sometimes featured on the podcast, are part of what Thees mentions as her inspiration and they help her internalize the idea that women can ditch politeness in order to protect themselves.
This phenomenon was explored by BuzzFeed reporter Scaachi Koul in a 2017 article about how My Favorite Murder is offering women tools to evade criminals. To capture this, Koul posted on the show’s Facebook page, asking fans to share examples. The responses poured in, mostly from women.
“They’ve started locking their doors and putting their keys between their fingers when they walk to their cars at night (just in case),” Koul writes. “They’ve been afraid of being murdered, but talking to other women with the same anxieties have calmed their nerves.”
For Thees, who fought off her assailant long enough that people at a nearby swimming pool heard her, stopped the attack, and then called the police, the podcast may have been the difference between life and death. For that reason, she posted the account on Facebook, hoping to inspire murderinos and non-murderinos alike.
“I am hoping that by sharing my story, this will allow me to begin the process of moving on and forward, mentally and emotionally,” she writes. “And if sharing my story helps anyone else out there going through something similar, now or in the future, then I will be happy.”